White Churches aren’t Biased

Recently a new book on Housing Bias has been published and the author, Paul Boudreaux is doing the radio interview rounds.  The Federal Housing Administration was created in 1934 in the midst of the Great Depression (my parents’ era) to encourage home ownership by federally guaranteeing home loans, making it possible to purchase a house with only a 10% down payment. Today, instead of the bank required 20% down, a new home buyer can put only 3% down and FHA will help the buyer qualify for a house loan.

Except in 1934 the FHA refused to guarantee loans to black people, or any loans to people who lived in mixed neighborhoods or neighborhoods anywhere near black people. Why? Because those neighborhoods were deemed unstable, and the FHA was afraid if the house went down in value and they had to repossess it, they couldn’t resell repossessed houses in those neighborhoods. After all, who wants to live in a black neighborhood?

Redlining_0The FHA had maps of all the black and mixed race areas of town (in red) to make sure they didn’t guarantee any loans on houses in those areas. White neighborhoods could only receive FHA guaranteed loans if they included restrictions in the deeds, making sure owners could not sell to black people, in order to make sure the neighborhood didn’t lose its value.

In this way huge amounts of money flowed into white neighborhoods, while no federally guaranteed loans flowed into black neighborhoods, as in NONE. Therefore the white neighborhoods looked rich, and the black neighborhoods looked poor.

“Why are these houses so small and ugly, Mommy?”

“Black people don’t know how to take care of their houses, honey.”

On top of that, cities would zone areas for warehouses and industry, predictably, not in the new white suburbs awash in lucrative federally backed mortgages. No, the black neighborhoods were zoned for warehouses and industries that belched black smoke and loud noises, and had big trucks trundling back and forth.

When black people wanted to buy houses, there were no neighborhoods available to them. So their existing neighborhoods became overcrowded.

As housing prices appreciated over the years. Whites who had been given the opportunity to buy houses in the suburbs had houses to borrow money against, to buy things like cars, second homes, investment property, new businesses and college for their kids.

These FHA policies continued through the boom of suburbs after WW2 in 1945. As white soldiers came home from the war, they bought houses in white neighborhoods, backed by the FHA. As black soldiers came home from the war, they could not receive an FHA loan, and were not permitted to buy a home in the suburbs. Through the Civil Rights protests of the 1950s, the back-of-the-bus boycotts, the voting rights marches, white flight into the suburbs, school desegregation, the hysteria of the Beatles, the race riots (that proved to white people that blacks were uncivilized), these policies continued, only changing in 1967, when I was 10 years old.

In 1967 the first black family moved into Plainfield, Indiana, a white suburb of black dominated Indianapolis. We were astounded when a black child appeared in the cafeteria of our school. We kept on standing up so we could see her. Finally the teacher placed her at the head of the long cafeteria table. So we could all stare at her without having to stand up. She was in the third grade. looked down at the table and chewed her sandwich slowly, as the children laughed and whispered the N word. (The black family did not move to Mooresville, where there was an active KKK group.)

By this time my family owned two houses. One we lived in, and one we rented out.

Today an average black person earns about 60 cents for every dollar an average white person earns. But the average black person still owns only 6% of what an average white person owns. Why? Because housing appreciates in value and is inherited through the generations.

My grandfather was a high school teacher who bought a house in San Bernadino, California in the 1930s, probably with FHA guaranteed loans. Then my grandparents opened a not very successful diner, probably borrowing money on their house. In the same way they bought farm land in Mississippi. When my grandparents died, their assets were inherited by my father and my aunt. None of this was available to black households until 1967. So my family, at the lower end of the middle class, has a huge financial jump on black families. The average white household now owns $111,000 in assets (mostly in their house), while the average black household owns only $7,000 in assets. Latino assets are similar to black assets.

What led to the change in government policy that opened up the FHA to let blacks have ANTI INTEGRATIONfederally backed mortgages and buy housing wherever they could afford it? Racial unrest in the 1950s and 1960s. The bus boycott of Montgomery, Alabama, when blacks refused to sit in the back of the bus, the lunch counter sit-ins in the 1960s when blacks sat at whites-only lunch counters for days, waiting to be served, while whites spat on them. Voter registration marches, when blacks had fire hoses set on them, dogs and horses from state police attacking them with batons.

A preacher friend of mine who grew up in Arkansas said he remembers a preacher from the pulpit in a Church of Christ referring to “Martin Lucifer Koon.” Such was the hatred of blacks changing the lives of whites.

As blacks moved into white areas, high schools changed their dress codes. They banned all Afro hair styles, or made the rule that no student with an Afro hairstyle could have their picture taken for the student yearbook. Some of these rules were unconscious, white people were scandalized by black culture, seeing it as eroding the morals of white culture. Didn’t everyone know that blacks were much more promiscuous than whites?  That’s why they are so poor! Would you want your daughter dating a black man? (Black maids and field workers were often expected to sexually service their white employers long after slavery officially ended.)

My parents relate how deacons or elders would stand at the back of the church in the 1960s and if a black family would come in, they would  let them know that there was a black Church of Christ across town where they would feel more comfortable. My mother said, “And they thought they were doing that family a kindness!”

After the Fair Housing Act was passed in 1967, President Nixon launched the War on Drugs, in which distributing powdered cocaine (used by white people) received a much lower prison sentence than distributing crack cocaine (used by black people), which received a mandatory 30 year sentence with no chance of parole. Enforcement was uneven against blacks vs whites arrested for drug offences. Many believe the War on Drugs was a substitute for the housing bias against black people. All you have to do is put 5% of black people in jail with felonies, and they can never vote again, their voting power is weakened enough so they cannot gain power. Most presidential elections are won by narrow margins.

Now (mostly) white evangelical churches are longing for those bygone eras of white neighborhoods and white schools. During the 1950s and 1960s one factory salary could support a wife, kids, house in the suburbs and a car in the driveway. Whites look back with nostalgia, confusing global imports with the integration of the last 50 years. Most factories have moved to countries who pay 15 cents an hour. The only jobs left here are ones that cannot be exported: food, delivery, leisure and hotels, technology, housing, construction, education, finance and healthcare.

White churches voted for racial inequality in the last election. They deny it, because they know racial inequality is a sin. They justify it by saying poor people are lazy, generations are on welfare, taking up our healthcare system, translation: blacks. White churches also justify their voting by saying that they were saving the lives of the unborn, voting against abortion. this rings hollow when at the same time they are voting against healthcare dollars for the unborn and for pregnant women. (White evangelicals also had concerns about judges nominated for the Supreme Court, religious liberty, and gay rights.)

White evangelicalism is a whited sepulcher. Pretty on the outside, full of rot on the inside.


About Mark

I was raised in the conservative non-institutional churches of Christ and attended Florida College in Tampa, Florida. I served as a minister for 8 years in the non-institutional churches of Christ, and 4 years at a mainline church of Christ in Vermont.
This entry was posted in civil rights, Evangelical Church, History, politics. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to White Churches aren’t Biased

  1. Gabriel Leonard says:

    How about coC In Latin America? You would love to hear my story! Saludos!

  2. Mark says:

    Tell me more!

  3. garycummings says:

    Mark, excellent article. I grew up in the racist South in Texas. My dad was a racist and my mother was not. I heard all the “N-words” and the word “coon” a lot. I was shocked when I became a Christian at the racism in the local Baptist church and in my all white school and culture. The only non-segregated place was the Air Force Base. I liked the equality there.

    Then I joined up with the Church of Christ, and was amazed that the Churches of Christ and their students and ministers and professors (for the most part, there were some exceptions) were actually MORE racist than the Southern Baptist Churches! I heard the old taunts “Would you want one to marry your sister?”, “They have their own N*****R Churches of Christ”, “Blacks are immoral”, and the whole 9 yards. I heard this from 1965 to 1969 at Ft. Worth Christian College and Abilen Christian College. I dated one young woman raised in the COC who was shocked that I was a “LIberal” in regards to race. The only thing that shocked her more was that I was against the Vietnam War.

    Now, the COC school have been forced in integrate, which is a good thing. It was fought tooth and nail. Now I still hear racial rumblings from various sectors of the COC. It ain’t over yet. Racism is still there in the Churches of Christ, which is not surprizing since theor founder was Daniel Sommer, a segregationist, in 1889. He left a legacy of racial hatred in the Churches of Christ.

  4. I once read, though haven’t otherwise verified, that the costume that high church protestant preachers wear is the clothing that business men wore in Geneva, Switzerland during the early Reformation. Capitalism and evangelicalism have been together from the beginning.

  5. Pingback: Evangelicals and Racism | Ex-Church of Christ Blog

  6. David Hughett says:

    Fascinating! I grew up in the Church of Christ — in Hendersonville, Tennessee — and never really experienced the racist attitudes, myself. (At least among my same-age peers — I was born in 1960.) If anyone said anything racist, people would get onto them bout it. But it is interesting to see somebody else’s perspective!

    • Mark says:

      I have heard that the Churches of Christ in TN are less racist.
      Two ways to tell if your church is racist:
      1. Do they have under 4% black people attending?
      2. Does your church emphasize that we need to support the police? –This is code for: Our police are innocent, it’s the uppity black people that are dangerous and uncooperative when they are stopped by the police.

  7. David Lipscomb, the second founder of the COC, was a very modern man for his day: he was a pacifist, Christian Anarchist, and an abolitionist with non-racist views. Some of the old Lipscomb COC’s are still around in Tennessee, and some produced some conscientious objectors and believers in racial equality.

  8. For some reason my avatar changed from Gary Cummings to Serenityebooks. I have not figured that one out. It is still me, the old ex-COC guy.

  9. Larry Cheek says:

    Did I ever see a bock on the ballot asking the race of the voter?

    • Mark says:

      Hi Larry,
      Every election there are exit polls in some of the balloting stations: paid people standing at the exits of the election polls to count the voters and ask them if they want to say who they voted for and what race they are, etc. This helps the public to know if the ballot counters are being honest. That is how they decided that electronic voting was being hacked: in the Democratic primaries the exit polls always matched the prediction polls, unless it was an electronic ballot, in which case the exit polls were 15% off of the prediction polls. Exit polls are essential to keeping the election process honest.

  10. Larry Cheek says:

    Since I live in such a small community I have never encountered an exit pollier. So I did a little research on the internet and my conclusion is that the data they collect is by far the least reliable of any statics on any subject. I did not see a category for those who would not revel who they voted for and of course there would always be individuals who would lie about whom they were voting for because of friends they might offend if they found out which way they cast their vote. This could be the case even in the tightest of relationships.
    What is the most confusing to me would be that the data does not seem to be correlated with the number of registered voters in a voting district. I believe that there are checks and balances in place which would quickly identify any voting manipulation within any district. There is in these small districts. If there is not in these large districts then those in charge of the process need to be sent back to school on basic calculations.

  11. Larry Cheek says:

    After this many years of blogging, from sometime in 2010, do you still feel that the church that you left still has a capability to impact your life in the community where you live? I guess what concerns me the most would be when I was listening to anyone teaching or preaching God’s Word to an audience, how much credence would I place into the message if it was being delivered by someone who would not revel his identity. I mean a preacher or teacher with only a first name, or for another example how much credence will you place into a message from a poster who uses an alias to post rather than any identification traceable to himself? Does that not seem to represent that the individual will not stand behind his own statements? Possibly you can clear up my thoughts on this concept. I’ll be observing.

    • Mark says:

      Yes, I still have a tenuous relationship with one of my brother. I would like to keep the relationship. I don’t hide my beliefs from him if he wants to discuss them with me (he does not).
      Does my Church of Christ background still affect me? Yes, hugely. I have Church PTSD. I get angry when I hear a sermon misusing the scriptures, or supporting the national religion of patriotism, or just wasting my time.
      I don’t need you to put any credence into what I write because of who I am. I want you to think about what I write, perhaps look up the articles I reference and think about it. That’s all.
      I’m sensing that you want to challenge me. I know that most of the time when I was in the Church of Christ we endeavored to find out what church people belonged to and then label them with that label. Then we were happy. That’s what most people who opposed what I wrote asked me when I first started this blog.

      • I hear you Mark about spiritual PTSD. I went to the funeral of an old Mennonite pastor,for whom I had a lot of respect. He was a quiet thoughtful man who preached quiet deep sermons, Then the minister who preached the funeral sermon stood up and said his piece. It was a horrible “salvation sermon”. It was like being back in the COC. Then I remember this spiritually abusive preacher got “saved” while in prison by a COC prosin minister. When we were co-pastors of a small country Menn. Church, we went round and around. I tried to explain to him that his beliefs were COC, and he said he got saved by a COC preacher and took their correspondence course. Now he is an ordained Mennonite pastor, who preaches horrible salvation-damnation sermons. If it were not for the family there, my wife and I would have walked out. I can smell a COC sermon a mile away.

  12. Pingback: Lipscomb University hosts African-American Student Meal | Ex-Church of Christ Blog

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